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Like he's never been away. That simple. That gobsmacking. Which is why I can't get, along the subject of gobs, with all this lukewarm mumbling about "pretty good for outtakes," which of course means pretty bad for non-outtakes. Clean out your brain if you can't clean out your ears!

The man (and, incidentally, the genius) who masterminded this stuff sounds businesslike and confident as he goes about rearranging our ideas about electric guitar. To prove his real-dealness, we not-incidentally get songwriting and singing that you take for granted at your peril. A weaker songwriter limited to 2:56 couldn't have sketched "Mr. Bad Luck" as a chump but a struggling chump, an aggravation deserving of empathy at the end. A weaker singer would suffocate under casual asides from a limited vocal range, not absorbing the phrasing and timing the guitar had to teach him.

"Stone Free," "Red House," and "Fire" aren't the ones you know from the radio, and why should they be? Amuse yourself imagining an alternate universe where the "Fire" from here made it out there, and we'd be listening with amusement to a rarity with the odd, static Englishman intoning the chorus. Here that tune rides faster and higher and that odd Englishman sounds like he just puffed through a pack of Player's Navy Cut. Oh, and the other, odder Englishman behind the drum kit comes off rounder and plumper on his tom-toms.

The master composer delivers incisive lyrics and organic, rich melody. The master improviser makes sure every tune's worth hearing in every iteration. I forgot how long he's been away. That's how heartbreaking the whole thing is at the end.

  • Album: Valleys Of Neptune (2010, recorded 1967–1969)
  • Artist: Jimi Hendrix
  • Label: Experience Hendrix/Legacy
  • Songs: (1) Stone Free (2) Valleys Of Neptune (3) Bleeding Heart (4) Hear My Train A Comin' (5) Mr. Bad Luck (6) Sunshine Of Your Love (7) Lover Man (8) Ships Passing Through The Night (9) Fire (10) Red House (11) Lullaby For The Summer (12) Crying Blue Rain
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Russ Lewis Aug. 6, 2010 @ 12:30 p.m.

Wonderful, lyrical piece of writing, and you've almost got me convinced to finally break down and buy it.


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